In 2018, local pastor Keith Culver saw an opportunity to start an event to give members of our community with special needs a prom night experience they’d never forget.
The event started out as Night to Shine, a part of the Tim Tebow Foundation’s ministry for special needs families. Rooted in the belief that everyone matters, it’s a night for churches around the country to host a special event for some of our community’s most deserving members. Keith and his team have hosted Night to Shine for the past several years. The event is incredibly popular; they had over 1,000 people attend in 2020.
Many churches that host Night to Shine are in larger cities, which means their guests and volunteers are all in a fairly small area. Here in the Black Hills, that’s not the case. “We have guests and volunteers coming from Nebraska and Wyoming too,” Keith explains. Not only that, Black Hills weather is often unpredictable in February. The weather makes it hard for guests to make plans to travel from further away.
In order to better serve our unique community, Keith and his team created their own special needs prom. They’ve decided to call the event “an Enchanted Evening at Bethel Church.” While the name of the event has changed, one thing’s for sure: the fun factor is still off the charts.
A Welcome for All
When guests arrive at Enchanted Evening, they’ll be greeted by a 100-foot-long red carpet surrounded by paparazzi and fans cheering for them. Once they’re inside, they’re treated to a fully catered meal, games, photos, and more. And of course, no prom is complete without a dance floor with a DJ. Every guest is matched with a volunteer for the night whose sole job is to make sure their guest has the time of their life.
The night’s fun includes more than just guests of the prom. Parents and caretakers of prom goers have their own respite room to enjoy while their loved one is having fun. “The kids are here to have fun,” Keith says, “but the respite room is our chance to pamper the parents a little bit too.” They’re treated to coffee and a free meal, games, and a theater setup where they can watch a movie or relax.
Like any community event, Enchanted Evening is only possible because of a dedicated team of volunteers. “We have a lot of great community members and organizations that help us every year. We couldn’t do it without them,” Keith says.
It takes a lot of work, but in the end, watching a group of people get together and have the time of their lives makes it all worthwhile. “You don’t have to be part of our church to come, and we won’t invite you to church.” Keith says. “It’s one of those things that isn’t about us — it’s just a night to bless the community and love on people.”